The Daily Telegraph

No celebritie­s and no logos mark a muted return for Balenciaga

Focus shifts to clothes after backlash against fashion house over scandal of adverts featuring children

- By Caroline Leaper senior fashion editor in Paris

PARIS is the home of almost all of the world’s storied fashion houses; Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga ....

However, when the creative director at each establishm­ent presents a new season’s collection, it is always worth rememberin­g that the current occupant is the custodian, not the owner.

The eviction notice was all but issued for Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia in November. The Georgian 41-year-old (who has gone simply by Demna since 2021) was appointed in 2015.

His shock-tactics approach has made him one of the most influentia­l designers working today. He has made profits soar and ensured the Balenciaga logo is recognised and worn globally.

But two advertisin­g campaigns released for the Christmas shopping season ended up placing his future in doubt.

One featured children with teddy bear handbags – but with the bears dressed in what looked like leather bondage harnesses.

The second campaign had actress Isabel Huppert standing over a desk full of paperwork. But zooming in showed the papers included a page from a US Supreme Court ruling on child pornograph­y.

Demna’s lauded celebrity following turned on the brand, condemning all “abuse towards children”, and cutting ties on future deals. The hashtag #Cancelbale­nciaga trended on Twitter and Tiktok. In response, Balenciaga withdrew both campaigns. It launched a lawsuit against those who produce its advertisin­g, and issued an apology.

Demna apologised and took responsibi­lity for “the wrong artistic choice”. But who, after all that, might stand by him at Paris Fashion Week yesterday? For his first catwalk collection since the scandal, he didn’t invite any celebritie­s. There was no lavish set or grand finale parade. There also wasn’t a logo in sight – a U-turn from the man who would once wrap models in branded tape and call it a catsuit. “Fashion, to me, can no longer be seen as an entertainm­ent, but rather as the art of making clothes,” he said.

Tailoring was his main focus and he inventivel­y reworked trousers into jackets, and made new statements about double denim, by layering pairs of jeans.

He inflated motorbike leathers to freakish proportion­s, explaining the wearer could inflate or deflate them to the level they wanted.

“I spent days at home during the most difficult moments,” he said. “I found shelter in cutting and stitching.” François-henri Pinault, chief executive of Kering, which owns Balenciaga, came backstage to congratula­te Demna vocally. Will he continue to stand by him? It surely depends on whether a new muted Balenciaga, with no buzz, will keep profits high. Ultimately, it’s up to the public. Will you continue to buy those logo-emblazoned trainers, bags and scarves?

 ?? ?? The garments that Demna says mark his new focus on making clothes, right.
The garments that Demna says mark his new focus on making clothes, right.
 ?? ?? Below, Kim Kardashian wrapped in Balenciaga tape last year
Below, Kim Kardashian wrapped in Balenciaga tape last year

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